‘He was a servant’: Family, firefighters honor Dillon County store owner killed in armed robbery

Pee Dee

DILLON, SC (WBTW) – People across Dillon County are honoring the life of a firefighter and store owner who was killed in an armed robbery last week.

John Walter Bailey was known by many in the county as “J.W.,” but he was especially known as a caring man.

“I love my daddy dearly,” said city fire Chief Keith Bailey, who’s also J.W.’s son. “He loved our family. He was a very family man. He was a very good provider. He was a good protector. He was a servant.”

Bailey died after police say there was an armed robbery at his convenience store Thursday night. No arrests have been made and the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) is investigating.

Bailey was 77 years old. A firefighter’s funeral service was held for him at First Baptist Church on Tuesday afternoon.

He owned J.W. Bailey’s Grocery for 47 years, just south of the city on U.S. Highway 301. Wreaths, flowers and ribbons have been placed outside the front door, as well as a sign that says, “We love you, J.W. Bailey.”

Several of the speakers at Tuesday’s service said you could see Bailey’s generosity at the store, like how he once gave a woman $25 worth of gas and a $20 bill when she needed to get to a Florence hospital to see her sick sister.

“You know J.W. Bailey would never send somebody away from that store that was really hungry and needed his help,” said Benny Cooper of Cooper Funeral Home, who was also on Dillon fire’s rescue squad with Bailey in the 60s. “Not ever.”

Bailey was also a member of the city’s fire department for 52 years. Several firefighters from Dillon and surrounding areas attended his funeral service.

They even escorted his casket to Greenlawn Cemetery.

“I remember standing on the fire grounds and watching J.W. Bailey pick up a 2 1/2-inch hose and give it everything he had at 75 years old,” said Rev. Michael Sapp with the city’s fire department. “That’s commitment.”

Chief Bailey thanked those who have helped his family, after his father helped so many others.

“We love each and every one of you,” he said. “Keep praying for us. Keep praying that whoever did this, that they’re found and brought to justice to the fullest.”

Chief Bailey is offering a $5,300 reward to anyone with information about who killed his father.

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